Samuel R. Berger
Deputy National Security Advisor to the President
Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith
I am honored to share the stage with Lisa and Ilsa Klinghoffer, and I commend them for their impressive and important work. Their unrelentless efforts to raise public awareness have stimulated concern and spurred concrete action in the ongoing fight against terrorism. All of us who are engaged in this battle owe them a debt of gratitude.
I am especially pleased to join them here at the Anti- Defamation League. In the courtroom, the classroom, and the community, for all my life -- and more -- the ADL has been a tireless leader in the fight against prejudice and the struggle for civil rights. Your work transcends the boundaries of religion, because the values you defend are those of humanity. Through the Nazi War Criminals Task Force, you bring justice for crimes of the past. Through the World of Difference Institute, you build bridges of understanding for the future. In range, dedication, and quality, you have a tremendous record of accomplishment. At 82, the ADL is more vibrant and active than ever.
The ADL is a steady force in a world of remarkable change. The Cold War is over. The Soviet Union is gone. Open societies and open markets are taking root on every continent. Former political prisoners -- from Havel to Mandela -- are now presidents, raising the flag of democracy from the ashes of oppression. From Northern Ireland to the Holy Land, problems that once appeared intractable are moving along the road to resolution.
A world of blocs and barriers is giving way to a global village -- aided by revolutions in technology and communications. The fax machine and the phone lines are bridging the gaps among nations. Satellite dishes and CD-ROM's have brought a world of information to our doorsteps. Billions of dollars cross the ocean with the simple stroke of a computer key. Greater openness gives us new opportunities to advance our security and prosperity.
But while this state of affairs is welcome, it is not without risks. The technology that links us means that threats can be transmitted -- and the openness we celebrate also makes us vulnerable. Problems that originate beyond our borders swiftly can become problems at home.
While the scourges of communism and fascism are dead or discredited, malignant strains of evil endure in newly potent forms. Indeed, our battle today against intolerance and inhumanity is just as urgent as the battle our grandparents fought in Russia, our fathers fought in World War II and the ADL has been fighting since its inception. For today's varied forces of hatred and destruction -- terrorism, drug trafficking, and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction -- are increasingly interconnected.
Groups that once operated in only one country or region, or engaged in only one type of criminal activity, are now becoming global and diversified. Drug traffickers smuggle machine guns. Terrorists sell counterfeit hundred dollar bills. Of the eight organized crime cartels the FBI has identified in America today, six are headquartered and directed overseas. Left unchecked, these transnational syndicates of crime distort free economies, derail fragile democracies, and degrade our societies with corruption and violence.
As the President warned the member states of the United Nations early week, no one is immune. From Japan to Argentina, from Paris to St. Petersburg, decent men and women have been the victims of organized crime. Law enforcement officers have been slain by drug kingpins. And innocent civilians have been the targets of terrorist bloodshed.
Lisa and Ilsa Klinghoffer know only too well that Americans are not immune from terrorism. In the past few years, the consciousness of the American people has been swiftly and brutally raised. A little over two and a half years ago, foreign terrorists tried to reduce the World Trade Center to rubble. Almost exactly six months ago, homegrown terrorists blew up a federal building in Oklahoma City -- killing 169 people, among them helpless toddlers, and injuring 400 others. Horrifying as those incidents were, imagine what they would have been like if those responsible had had access to nuclear material -- or had used the chemical or biological weapons anyone, reading instructions from the internet, can brew in their kitchens.
President Clinton is making the fight against terrorism a national priority -- and a national security priority. With his leadership, the United States is implementing a comprehensive strategy against terrorism -- a strategy designed to increase deterrence against terrorist attacks, to minimize the damage when they do, to make sure that those responsible are brought to justice, and to increase pressure and isolation of countries which give support terrorist activities and groups..
The last thirty years have seen the development of state- sponsored terrorism as a brutal and perverse instrument of foreign policy. State sponsors with clear political objectives use terrorist organizations to attack American interests or the interests of other democracies. That pattern still exists -- including with Iran, Sudan, and Libya villains. Groups like Hamas also have clear political objectives. Its attacks on Israeli civilians are designed to destroy the peace process and consign the region to a future of deadlock and darkness.
Now, however, we also are seeing an increasing number of terrorist groups comprised of rootless, angry individuals who often lack a coherent political agenda. These loose teams of self-motivated, self-financing ideologues can spawn quickly and have little organized structure. Because they serve no particular state and profess no specific program, they are difficult to track. Like their more traditional counterparts, they seek out environments where border controls are weak, documentation checks are rare, and mobile societies allow them to blend in. It was free-lance, ideological mercenaries who bombed the World Trade Center, conspired to attack other targets in the New York area, and shattered any illusion that "it couldn't happen here."
Just as the "who" and "why" of terrorism are in transition, the "how" is changing too. Well before Aum Shinrikyo made "sarin" a household word, the threat of chemical and biological terrorism was clear. From a terrorist's point of view, such weapons have obvious advantages. Their components are cheap and readily available. They are small and easy to conceal. They are capable of inflicting enormous casualties, and they are difficult to counteract. Expertise in creating such weapons is abundant -- and to some degree on the loose.
President Clinton's counterterrorism strategy is as far- reaching and as aggressive as the forces it aims to defeat. We have attached state-sponsored terrorism at its source, placing stiff sanctions on Iran and Sudan and maintaining the sanctions on Libya. We are working hard through the United Nations and bilaterally to ensure that states engaged in international terrorism pay a burdensome toll: economic deprivation and political isolation from the family of civilized nations.
We have stepped up cooperation with the G-8 and Russia to ferret out terrorists before they act, facilitate the capture of wanted terrorists, and improve border controls so that terrorists can no longer move freely. We have strengthened funding, personnel, and training for our law enforcement agencies, and improved our cooperation with other countries.
The Clinton Administration now has established a domestic counterterrorism center, which brings under one roof all the different agencies involved in surveilling, hunting, and prosecuting terrorists. At the same time, the FBI has increased its overseas presence so it can be closer to the crime scenes, potential witnesses, and the governments whose cooperation they need to carry out investigations. And the Treasury Department is working harder than ever to sever the economic lifelines that allow terrorist groups to survive.
This is an unending challenge. But, in fact, our efforts are yielding some results. In the last three years, the United States has arrested more terrorists than at any time in our history -- plucking them from hiding in Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Jordan, and Egypt, and bringing them back to stand trial. We made swift arrests in both of the major terrorist assaults that took place on our soil -- and we foiled terrorist plots to bomb the UN and destroy American jumbo jets over the Pacific. When we uncovered a plot to assassinate President Bush, the President ordered military retaliation against its sponsor state, Iraq.
We have taken unprecedented steps to shut off the payments to terrorist pocketbooks. In January, the President signed an Executive Order blocking the assets and banning fund raising efforts of terrorist groups opposed to the Middle East peace process. We have also been on the front lines of the battle to prevent terrorists from using banking systems to hide and transfer their ill-gotten gains. Last week, the President directed the government to identify and put on notice nations that tolerate money laundering. As the President said, "Nations should bring their banks and financial systems into conformity with international anti-money laundering standards. We will work to help them to do so. And if they refuse, we will consider appropriate sanctions." President Clinton also directed the government to identify the front companies and freeze the assets of the Cali Cartel -- the largest drug trafficking enterprise in the world.
This progress is important, but far more remains to be done. At the UN General Assembly this week, the President called on the nations of the world to "ratify existing anti-terrorism treaties and work with us to shut down the gray markets that outfit terrorist criminals with firearms and false documents." He urged member states to track down international fugitives, deny them sanctuary, and bring them to justice -- "so that we could say together to organized criminals, terrorists, drug traffickers and smugglers, you have nowhere to run and nowhere to hide."
The President's omnibus counter-terrorism bill, which he sent to the Congress last February, would give the executive branch some important new tools to keep terrorists out of the United States, broaden the ban on terrorist fundraising, respond to chemical and biological terrorism, and investigate terrorist attacks. Yet for all their "get tough" rhetoric, the Congress has allowed this bill to languish for months. Playing politics with the safety of the American people is flatly irresponsible.
The Congress also is being dangerously short-sighted in its efforts to gut our development assistance. The modest resources we devote to multilateral development banks and to bilateral assistance help alleviate the poverty, inequity and hopelessness that provide fertile breeding ground for extremists. Denying those funds today will cost us much more in the long-run, as demagogues and destructive forces rush to fill the vacuum. Through penny-wise, pound-foolish budgeting, we will have squandered an investment in America's security.
We are also frankly disappointed with the behavior of some of our allies, who continue to place economic interests above a concerted fight against terrorism. We will continue to pressure them to curtail economic ties with Iran and other state sponsors of terrorism, to maintain strong sanctions on Libya, and to join us in unified action against other rogue states. They need to see that their support, whether indirect or otherwise, legitimizes the forces of evil.
The story of Leon Klinghoffer reminds us why America must -- and will -- remain an aggressive leader in the global fight against terrorism. And so do the stories of 35 exchange students from Syracuse University whose journey home from Europe ended in the skies over Lockerbie, Scotland...Jackie VanLandingham, foreign service secretary and devoted mother of twins, shot in a U.S. Embassy van in Karachi...Joan Davenny, Connecticut schoolteacher, who lived for the study of Jewish culture and was murdered on a bus in Jerusalem...Christy Rosas, 22-year-old mother of a 5-year old son -- one of the last two victims to be freed from the mountain of rubble and sorrow in Oklahoma City. These are our neighbors, our colleagues, our children, our friends.
The cost of terrorism is measured in individual lives. President Clinton is determined to sustain and strengthen our global fight against terrorism. We know that nothing we can do will make us invulnerable, but that is precisely why we can spare no effort to renew and improve our capabilities, on our own and in concert with others. And while the road ahead is challenging, the dedication of Ilsa and Lisa Klinghoffer and the work of the Leon and Marilyn Klinghoffer Memorial Foundation energize and inspire us all. Together, we must succeed.
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